Exhibitor trade show report: Outdoor Retailer 8/2008

Today we have a report from April Femrite of Naturally Bamboo detailing her experiences as an exhibitor at the most recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City Utah. If you’re making products for the active or outdoor market, this information will be useful. Thanks April!

The Bamboo Tour – Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 8-11

For OR (Outdoor Retailer) I had a 10×10 booth at the Energy Solutions Arena (ESA), across the street from the main exhibit hall at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Outdoor Retailer has grown so big that it had to expand outside of the convention center and all of us new exhibitors got stuck over at the much less busy venue. I brought my sister, Jenny, and my part-time employee, Stacy, along with me for the 17+ hour road trip from Minnesota (our travels could be a whole other write up).

ESA was about a 10-15 minute walk from the front entrance of Salt Palace. Many buyers told me that they wanted to get over to see the new lines but could not fit the in the “hike” in between appointments. I heard that most ESA exhibitors signed a petition to the show about the slow traffic, but I didn’t see anything come around to me. My space was $2500 and I spent another $1500 to be a part of the Green Steps program which has special advertising for “green” businesses and for 500 branded post cards to be mailed to registered buyers. I honestly don’t know if the extra $1500 was worth it since I didn’t track who came to my booth because of the advertising. Below is a picture of my booth.


I’ve only done two other trade shows – Northstar in Minneapolis and the Eco Show in Las Vegas. Even though the ESA was not nearly as hopping as Salt Palace, I was quite happy with my booth traffic compared to my other 2 shows. I had collected about 100 business cards from interested buyers, but not one actually wrote an order at the show. That was disappointing, but after talking with the other new lines, they didn’t get any written orders either. My saving grace was that I spent a lot of time contacting media before the show. OR emailed a registered media list that included over 400 contacts. We had set up 6 media appointments before the show and all of the contacts showed up – Utah radio, Chicago Tribune, National Outdoors.net , Inside Outdoor Magazine, Yoga Journal and Vegetarian Times. National Outdoors.net just posted on their site naming Naturally Bamboo in the Top 10 Summer list for Outdoor Retailer – yeah! I am hoping to get some more positive press out of this down the road as well.

Made excellent contacts with reps, even picked up lists of reps looking to add new lines. One rep from KAVU and Icebreaker really liked the mission behind my company and is offering me some merchandising advice and is seriously considering helping out with my line once I have a few more styles under my belt (he’s from Duluth, MN so we have that local connection as well).

We met some Minnesota buyers from outdoor stores and hung out with them at the Keen, Granite Gear, and Horny Toad parties. I tell you what, I’m coming back to OR every time just for the great parties – one night they had a free Rusted Root concert and there was always free food and beer. I don’t think I paid for any dinners or drinks the entire four days of the show. Oh, and all the major brands serve free beer, wine, and martini’s, etc. to all of their buyers beginning at 3pm every day of the show.

One exciting new addition to the show was Project OR (a takeoff of Project Runway). Project OR is the live student design competition live from the show at the Energy Solutions Arena “pitting top students from top design schools around the country against each other in a concept-to-prototype blitz over 48 hours”.

I personally did not like the design that won because I did not see it as being functional for the outdoor market. I chatted a bit with contestant Aimee Morrow (she did a poncho/skirt number) and really liked her take on styles being multi-functional. We have since been emailing back and forth – she wants to use bamboo for her senior line (she is a design student at Colorado State) and in exchange for me getting her some fabric, she is going to do some sketches/style development for me.

Some other great things that happened at the show:

  • I met Jackie Heinrich who is a scientist that developed moso bamboo tissue that can be grown in abundance here in the US. I can’t elaborate about the project just yet, but we are getting close to having the entire bamboo clothing supply chain right here locally – from raw materials to fiber, spinning, fabric and RTW garments. Oooh, I’m getting so excited thinking about it.

  • I’m going to become member of Outdoor Industry Association and the eco-working group (get to work along side Patagonia, Timberland, etc.) and help develop sustainability guidelines.
  • I went out to eat with Noah (the boyfriend of Aimee – Project OR finalist), who is going on a 6000 mile bike trek across Asia and he is going to be my “extreme”’ outdoor adventurer and I am going to write about his journey on my upcoming blog. I am giving him some bamboo tees and socks to wear on his excursion and he is going to email me updates.

I know there were so many other cool things that happened on our trip, but this is what comes to mind for now. Although the orders coming in did not cover the expenses (but I did get a few orders after the show), I do want to go back to Outdoor Retailer. I feel this is where I belong and this is definitely the crowd I want to hang with. Hopefully I can scrape up enough money to show again there in January.

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2 comments

  1. Big Irv says:

    Space has always been an issue for OR and the main venue is alway sold out. They use every inch of the Salt Palace, even the lobbies and entranceways.I can recall one year they had tents up which were destroyed in a storm, so the tent concept ended I suppose.

    Too bad about the hike to your offsite location. Maybe a soft economy contributed to the poor traffic. Did you inquire with other vendors how the traffic at the SP was ?

    I continue to be amazed at how freely booze flows at the OR show, considering you are in Salt Lake City. Glad you had fun though.

  2. Lisa Bloodgood in Portland says:

    I think Salt Palace is a cool name. :-)
    I’m glad you had a good time, even if you didn’t get orders there.
    Some day I’d like to have a giant field where I plant only bamboo, so when I do have that field, I’d like input on what kind to plant. :-)

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